The growing internal fight over gay marriage is threatening to split the Republican Party further, with conservatives warning that the GOP cannot win the White House if it shucks long-established social policy positions.

In a sharp rebuttal to efforts by moderates to pressure state and national Republican leaders to endorse same-sex marriage, conservatives are rallying opponents and openly mocking the establishment GOP's preference for focusing solely on economic issues, which one prominent critic said amounts to tax cuts for the rich and less Social Security for the poor and elderly.

They are also commissioning polls to show their strength. The Family Research Council and American Values provided Secrets with a new poll in which 82 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents agreed that marriage is between one and one woman. And 75 percent said that politicians should not be rewriting that definition.

“We’re pressuring the moderate class to back off,” said American Values President Gary Bauer.

The fight recently moved into Nevada where GOP moderates want to surrender over gay marriage.

It could get ugly.

Bauer, for example, said that the party is known and liked for its conservative positions on marriage and abortion more than its economic agenda that is easy to paint as favoring the rich at the expense of the middle class.

“I would argue that it is the public’s perception of what the Republican economic agenda is that is causing us to lose elections,” Bauer told Secrets. “I think it is absolutely clear that our position on the sanctity of life and on marriage are more popular with the American people than the perception of our economic agenda which basically boils down to no tax hikes on billionaires and your mom’s Social Security check ought to be smaller.”

He added that if some in the GOP establishment continue to push the party into the liberal camp on social issues, “they are playing with fire.”

Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at